6 Real Benefits of Fasting, Backed by Science
The potential benefits of fasting are numerous and powerful.
From curing Diabetes to helping prevent cancer, fasting has tremendous potential.
Yet most people have never even fasted for longer than 24 hours.
*Always consult your doctor before fasting or beginning any new diet or exercise program. This artile is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition (have to say it).
Let’s take a look at why fasting is so incredible and how it can dramatically improve your overall health and wellness.
First, though, let’s take a quick look at why this is so important and relevant. (or just skip ahead if you wish)
Why is Our Society So Sick?
Here are a few shocking statistics about our current society:
- 1 out of 5 deaths in the US are from heart disease. Heart disease was rare pre-1900.
- Roughly 40% of the US population are diabetic or pre-diabetic!
- Over 40% of the US are obese, an 11% increase since 2000.
- Average testosterone in men has decreased over the past several decades significantly (see here) (and here)
Our Food is Killing Us
The explanation for all of this illness is not complicated.
There are 2 primary culprits that are responsible for almost all of it:
- Insulin Resistance (from sugars and processed carbohydrates)
- Inflammation/oxidation from Industrial Oils (vegetable seed oils)
- A third would be chemicals in plastics and processed foods, but the above two are (in my opinion) the worst.
Scroll through this post below from my IG if you like for some more info on Vegetable Seed Oils.
Insulin Resistance and Inflammation
The two worst things we have going on are insulin resistance and chronic inflammation.
This is literally the origin and cause of the majority of heart disease, diabetes, cancers and many other illnesses that are rampant in our society.
Here’s a study from UAB showing that 40% of young Americans are already becoming insulin resistant. 40%!
How this isn’t viewed as a health epidemic is a true mystery of our times and is going to have major consequences in the not-too-distant future.
And most importantly, it can all be avoided through proper eating (and fasting.)
Straight from one study on PubMed:
“Overconsumption of food with such eating patterns often leads to metabolic morbidities (insulin resistance, excessive accumulation of visceral fat, etc.), particularly when associated with a sedentary lifestyle. Because animals, including humans, evolved in environments where food was relatively scarce, they developed numerous adaptations that enabled them to function at a high level, both physically and cognitively, when in a food-deprived/fasted state.”
Having constantly elevated insulin levels is NOT natural for the body and is highly undesirable and toxic.
Coupled with constant inflammation, our lipids get thrown into chaos and this environment within our body wreaks havoc on the cardiovascular system (atherosclerosis and “hardening” of the arteries.)
Multiply this by 10-20 years of damage, and the stage is set for all things bad.
For a good read on cholesterol, check this post out.
We Were Designed for Scarcity, NOT Overindulgence.
Our ancestors evolved genetically over hundreds of thousands of generations to handle scarcity.
Going days without food was the norm for a very long time, and we’ve adapted genetically to THAT.
It’s only been a handful of generations where we have food in such abundance.
And an even smaller fraction where we have sugar-filled, processed foods everywhere.
Bottom line: our genetics are not capable of properly dealing with the way (and the things) that we’re eating.
The result is, of course, disease.
In 2016, Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize for his work on Autophagy.
When we have scarcity, our body naturally shifts into ketosis (burning fat for fuel).
After prolonged time without food (more than a day), we also begin a process called Autophagy.
Autophagy means “self-eating.”
The body begins to recycle old, damaged proteins and DNA.
Think of this as a way for the body to cleanse and purge itself of old and damaged, toxic material.
Autophagy has implications for treating and preventing cancers and other diseases like alzheimers, anti-aging, and much more.
6 Real Benefits of Fasting
1. Improved Insulin Sensitivity
Easily one of the most important benefits of fasting.
Improved insulin sensitivity can reduce your risk for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and many other morbidities.
Your blood pressure and triglycerides can improve. and symptoms of depression can potentially be alleviated (1).
All of this is due to the fact that we are simply not designed to be insulin resistant.
We’ve built up insulin resistance through the modern industrialized diet full of sugar, seed oils and chemicals.
Fasting will allow your glucose and insulin levels to drop, which will be soothing to the body and allow you to re-sensitize to insulin over time.
Both intermittent fasting and prolonged fasting can reap this benefit.
2. Prevent and Possibly Cure Some Cancers
Fasting has been shown to delay the growth of tumors in breast cancer (see here) and brain tumors (see here), as well as preventing their reoccurrence.
There are many different pathways that fasting can act on to achieve this.
Fasting can naturally reduce insulin and IGF-1, which can slow the growth of tumors.
Through autophagy, fasting can also cause the body to “eat” damaged cells before they become problematic.
Tumors often rely on glucose to survive and grow.
Fasting, especially longer duration fasts, will naturally lower glucose levels as the body shifts to ketosis, thus essentially “starving” the tumor of its preferred fuel source.
This is known as the “Anti-Warburg effect” of fasting.
There are numerous accounts of people completely ridding their body of cancer through prolonged fasting.
Animal studies have also shown that fasting can have potent anti-cancer effects:
According to another study:
“Periodic fasting or FMDs consistently show powerful anticancer effects in mouse cancer models including the ability to potentiate chemoradiotherapy and TKIs and to trigger anticancer immunity.”
3. Fasting is Anti-inflammatory
Inflammation increases risk for many diseases, including heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and others.
Studies have consistently shown that fasting results in a decrease in inflammatory markers. (see here)
Inflammation is not a natural state for the body to constantly be in.
It is the result of living against our nature and genetics.
Again, we are designed for scarcity, NOT overindulgence.
We have not adapted to eating constant sugar and inflammatory, processed oils and foods.
Fasting can provide relief to the constant cycle of inflammation and lower our risk for many diseases.
I also highly recommend getting a quality omega-3 supplement as well to further reduce inflammation and improve your lipids.
I’ve had great results with cod liver oil, and I very highly recommend the brand below as one of the highest quality I’ve found.
4. Stem Cells and Anti-aging.
A fascinating study by MIT shows that age-related loss of stem cell function can be reversed by a 24 hour fast.
Stem cells are the body’s building blocks for all of our organs and tissues.
As we age, we lose the ability to regenerate, thus accumulating damage, also known as aging.
Fasting seems to stimulate stem cell production. This boosts the body’s ability to regenerate.
Caloric restriction is linked to longevity in both humans and animals.
It’s possible that stem cell regeneration plays a significant role in this phenomenon.
5. Fasting can Make You Live Longer
We know that caloric restriction leads to a longer lifespan in both humans and animals.
We don’t know the exact mechanism for this, but the theories are very interesting.
Some believe that this is an adaptation billions of years old from prokaryotes (single-cell organisms) trying to survive amongst very limited resources.
We can view this today by observing that E. Coli will survive 4 times longer when given a calorie free medium vs. a calorie dense medium.
Coupled with the reduced insulin, inflammation and oxidation seen with fasting, there’s a very strong case that it is highly conducive to living longer.
6. Fasting can Protect the Brain
Several animal studies have concluded that fasting and low-calorie diets can delay cognitive decline.
Smaller human studies have also shown similar results.
It is known that diabetics have about twice the risk for Alzheimer’s, so we can reasonably assume that fasting will have a positive effect.
Fasting is possibly the best remedy for insulin resistance, so logically this makes a lot of sense.
A reduction in inflammation and an increased reliance on fat (ketones) also appear to be highly beneficial to the brain.
Many people swear by increased mental clarity even several days into an extended fast.
While we are still learning about how fasting affects the brain, it appears there may be significant neuroprotective benefit.
Final Thoughts and Recap
If one thing is clear in our current society, it’s that we are extremely unhealthy overall.
Obesity, insulin resistance, cancer and heart disease are all being caused by what we consume every day.
Fasting is one tool you can incorporate into your life to combat this trend and reclaim your natural health.
Combined with a diet free of sugars, industrial oils and processed foods, you’ll have a simple and powerful plan of attack to stay healthy, live longer and feel better.